What are the five best restaurants in Aruba?

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A potpourri of more than 90 nationalities along with influences from all over the globe have permeated into the Aruba dining scene, and now with more than 200 fine-dining establishments, the choices are endless.

A great way to discover many of them is through the Aruba Gastronomic Association. The group offers a dine-around program that represents more than 30 of the island’s very best spots.

Quinta del Carmen
One of the island’s newest dining emporiums is set in a gloriously restored 100- year-old mansion with a grand courtyard. It’s the creative choice of cuisines that makes for return diners.

Many dishes of Dutch comfort food (dedicated to one of the owner’s grandmothers) sidle up to avant-garde creations like shrimp piña colada, and choices also often leave Aruba’s shores to include surprises like herb-crusted Canadian salmon and pork roast Tennessee. Though the menu is often playful, the restaurant takes quality seriously, and it shows.

Amuse Bistro
Creativity and an intimate easygoing vibe are the keys to the success of this tiny indoor/outdoor escape just outside of Playa Linda Resort. Chef Patrick van der Donk is a true artist who delights in creating French inspired amuse-bouche types of dishes and pairing each bite with the best wines possible.

The most popular experiences are the three- and five-course “Carte Blanche” food-and-wine pairings in which the chef has carte blanche on what he serves. But no worries about this type of chef’s “surprise,” you have the option to list any ingredients needed to be left out due to dietary restrictions.

Papiamento
Set in a century-old family home full of antiques and art, the interior is like a mini-museum while the exterior is set upon a lovely pool surrounded by tropical foliage.

It’s run by the Ellis family, second-generation Aruban restaurateurs. Chef Edward Ellis plunders his own organic garden plantation nearby for fresh ingredients. His sister Annelotte makes magic as a noted pastry chef.

Local dishes include keshi yena (chicken-stuffed cheese), and a bouillabaisse using fresh catch and local hot peppers. But for a real treat, order the chef’s daily special and enjoy whatever has been invented as the cocktail of the day.

Cuba’s Cookin’
The Old Havana-style vibe lives at the Renaissance Marketplace Marina, where you can eat inside or out in a lively atmosphere. It’s actually not surprising to Arubans that some of the best Cuban food can be found there since Aruba’s ties to the “Big Island” run deep — decades ago local men would go there for work and return with Cuban wives.

Sultry live Latin music and nightly dancing, killer mojitos, plus seriously authentic Cuban dishes like ropa vieja and mofongo all make this a very popular haunt for both locals and visitors alike.

Windows on Aruba
This gorgeous glassed-in emporium located at Divi Golf Village was already a well-established landmark, but now the menu has evolved. It was totally refreshed by executive chef Matt Boland, who was also responsible for recently amping up all of Divi Resort’s culinary offerings. His preference for pure, fresh ingredients and supporting local interests has ensured that there are as many fresh farm and sea dishes as possible.

The Aruba restaurant also hosts an incredible Sunday champagne brunch with live music, and the set price includes far more than egg dishes — there are many surprisingly upscale meat and seafood mains as well.

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